As a budding screenwriter, I’ve sent something away to be copywritten. Since it’s been sent out, I’ve made a few minor changes to it, including changing a character’s name and deleting a scene. Is it possible to make changes to the registered screenplay, and still have it protected without having to send in the new draft?

–Matt

"Copywritten" seems like it should be a word, but it isn’t. The problem is the "written" part. Copyright actually has nothing to do with the process of writing. It’s a legal protection on a piece of intellectual property that can be transferred, sold or bartered. Columbia Pictures owns the copyright to GO, even though they didn’t write it.

The word you’re looking for is "copyrighted." Based on the lawsuits we all read about, in which rap stars get sued for copyright violations after sampling three seconds of a song, it’s understandable that you want to be hyper-vigilant about copyright.

Vigilant is not the same thing as paranoid, however, which is what you’re being.

Copyright is actually a fairly broad protection of intellectual property; that is, an idea and its execution. Changing a character’s name or deleting a scene doesn’t fundamentally alter your work, and wouldn’t fundamentally alter your ability to protect it.

How much needs to change to make re-registering your script worthwhile? That’s obviously going to depend on the project. If you rewrote the last act so that the big action climax takes place on the space shuttle rather than a yacht, then sure, maybe that’s worth re-registering. But if your rewrite just changes some dialogue and fixes typos, then forget about it. While such tweaking hopefully makes your script better, it doesn’t change anything in the grand scheme of things.